• Norms
  • Thinking norms
  • Norms

Learn how to establish and maintain a positive classroom culture for science learning.

About This Guide

Teacher and students in a classroom

Below, you'll find guidance related to using science notebooks to anchor norms for productive group work, including:

  • Examples of various norms
  • Tips on how to use norms with notebooks
  • An example story from a real classroom

Because we know teachers appreciate seeing the results of using these strategies, we've also created a gallery of examples.




Example Norms

Establishing and maintaining norms helps create a positive classroom culture for science learning. In this type of classroom there are productive conversations with respectful disagreement. Failure is okay, and in fact encouraged. Students work collaboratively to share their work and ideas. There exist multiple right answers, multiple ways to solve problems, and there’s room for teachers and students to take risks.

Some teachers use the same norms in all subjects. Others prefer to set expectations that are specific to science. Below are some examples of norms you can use in your classroom:

  • No one is done until everyone is done
  • Ask questions and share ideas
  • Smarter together than apart
  • We learn from taking risks
  • Talk about each other's thinking
Example norms
  • Equity of participation
  • Active listening
  • Respect for all perspectives
Example norms
  • No one teaches – everyone facilitates
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Everyone here is smart – everyone knows something – share it!
  • Everyone gets to touch the materials

How to Make it Happen

  • Determine which norms you will use for science. You can choose from the norms here, create your own, or co-construct them with your students.
  • Post norms visibly in the classroom.
  • Have students write or paste the norms inside the front cover of their science notebooks.
  • Before each session, ask small groups to select a norm they would like to focus on, and have them write it at the top of their notebook page.
  • When you circulate, ask students how they are doing on their norm. If you notice a conflict in a group, try to help them resolve it by returning to their focus norm.
  • At the end of the session, ask students to reflect in their notebooks or with a partner: what did you do to achieve your focus norm today? What would you like your group to do more of or less of next time?

Notes from the Classroom

boys working together

Florida followed the steps above with her 4th grade students. Whenever they embarked on a new project, each small group would select a focus norm. These norms were especially helpful when her students faced engineering design challenges, like the time they tried to build hovercrafts out of balloons, bottle tops and CDs.

In one group, a student grew frustrated because no one was listening to his ideas. Florida reminded the group of their focus norm, "Smarter together than apart," and encouraged them not to move forward until they heard from all team members.